Funerial thoughts

Strange day. I spent a lot of it planning my own funeral, which will, as is traditional, be an event at which I will be present but not paying any attention, if you get my meaning.

The thing is, it’s no good saying: Look, I don’t care, do whatever you like. If you say that, you are liable to cause endless arguments and at the very least uncertainties among your loved ones about “What he would have wanted”. So, you have to say what you want, even if you aren’t actually that bothered.

Plus, although I say I’m not bothered, I can imagine plenty of scenarios which even the thought of would bother me, so a period of introspection was called for. Just saying “Do whatever you want” would be very selfish, in a bad way. Saying exactly what I want is selfish in a good way.

Apparently David Bowie (the old blog seems to be back working again without any
Screen of the Red Death
) had a very private cremation, followed by a more public ceremony at which celebs took it in turns saying how great he was. But not being that great myself, I figure the people present at my funeral ceremony would appreciate knowing that this is the actual funeral. If they suspect that the real funeral, the one I was actually burnt at, was earlier, they might not want to be at the later pretend funeral. So, just the one event for me, and everyone will see me being fed into the incinerator room. It’s what I would have wanted.

And now, my Designated Best Friend is in my front room, chucking superfluous paper into supermarket bags:

Since that photo was photoed, three SIX more entire bags of totally obsolete bumph have accumulated.

In other funerial news, earlier today GodDaughter2, the one who has just finished learning how to sing, accepted the job of being in charge of my pathologically huge classical CD collection, when I am dead and burnt. So, if you love classical CDs, and even if you hardly now know me, leave a comment that this is a list you’d like to be on. Don’t wait for me to die before expressing such interest. Think of my beloved CDs not as inanimate objects but as a colossal pack of puppies each of which I am seeking a good home for. If I can die knowing that my CDs will be well cared for and listened to, rather than just thrown into about three skips, well, … that’s what I would have wanted and meanwhile do now want. GD2 herself leads too mobile a life just now to be wanting such responsibilities, and in any case CDs are, for her, absurdly twentieth century and completely superfluous to requirements. But if you, like me, feel differently, then like I say, get in touch, now.

A good day. Good not merely because it was pleasurable, but because I got some difficult and important things decided and done. And because other such things were done for me, by various loved ones. The least these people should be getting from me is a description of what I would have wanted, even if it is a bit of an effort to work out what that might be.

The Airbus A390 “Clickbait” – etc.

Indeed:

I encountered this glorious airplane on Twitter, but just now Twitter is refusing to load onto my computer, for some idiot reason to do with me refusing to update or generally do as commanded, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. The posting in question is, in any case, unworthy of a link because if was one of those “15 airplanes that should never have been built”, adorned by an annoyingly small version of the above photo. Like a fool I took the bate bait (see first comment), and there were more like a hundred airplanes, many of them rather sensible, but none of them were the above goose airbus. Liars. I really should know by now not to disappear into these multi-click lists of foolishness. But then I googled “goose airbus” and found the bigger version of the photo that you see above.

Speaking of clickbate clickbait, yesterday I emailed David Thompson, with news of this crane inserts London bus into London pub garden posting here, in the hope that he might include it in his Friday ephemera clutch today, and he did (“Crane use of note”). So traffic here has jumped upwards. Check it out if you’ve not seen this. It’s a great photo. (This posting is now going to be another of these.)

David Thompson’s ephemera postings are a good source of weird animal stuff, and today, there’s a link to a story about a sea slug that keeps its head but grows another body.

I wish I could do that.

I also liked, although this is vegetable rather than animal news, this photo of unsupervised potatoes. Says DT’s first commenter (“Lady Cutekitten of Lolcat”): I once saw The Unsupervised Potatoes open for Rod Stewart.

M AGA

Here‘s the big reason why Trump is going to win. He wants everyone to vote for him, black or white, gay or straight. He’s not picky. All you have to be is pro-American!

Ricky Rebel explains his video, in one of the great pro-Trump speeches of the campaign so far. Conservatives are in on the joke! It’s driving liberals crazy! Some of my best friends are Republicans! … Trigger all the Libs!

Following.

“This is how people are in London …”

Apparently there have been complaints about this:

I agree with DebApre, replying to an American complainer:

This is not an issue in England. We share culture. We don’t consider this appropriation. You can’t sully something that’s meant to be fun and claim racism. This is not it. I used to wear Saris because one of my best friends was of Indian heritage. This is how people are in London.

Melting Pot London. Love it.

Also from DebApre, this:

Also, i lived in Dubai for 2 years and I dressed like Middle Easterners and Indians. The world is your oyster and experience if you want it to be. I still wear Indian outfits. I have never once been accused of appropriation.

So what’s happening? Well, I just put a comment on Samizdata which says a little of what I think about this stuff:

They aren’t “alarmed”. They are focussing attention on white racism, white racism being what they now want, and have done ever since the working class let them down by not wanting to join their revolution. They want a race war, because they reckon their side might win that.

The way to react is to frame this not as these races versus this race, but as civilisation versus barbarism, with all the socialists, national and international, on the same barbaric side. The recent Republican Convention would appear to have done this splendidly.

What the “alarmed” people were doing there was talking up white racism, in the guise of denouncing it (in connection with a demo about wearing masks). And with this Adele photo, they’re trying to stir it between white people and black people once again.

God forbid people should actually just get along with each other.

The Plague has brought back the Seventies

I remember when people looking like this were all over Top of the Pops:

Following a heavy dose of injury, Surrey quick bowler Reece Topley is today back playing international cricket for the first time in four years.

The one difference from the Seventies: tattoos on the arms.

Antisocial Benches

Remember Jeppe Hein’s red seat sculptures outside the Royal Festival Hall. Well, when I went back there, in early May of this year, when Lockdown was getting started, to see how the red seats looked in bright sunshine (strictly for the essential exercise you understand), I discovered that what Stein called his Modified Social Benches had been modified, to look like miniature crime scenes. They had been smothered in red and white tape, thus:

However, towards the end of the time I spent photoing all these benches that had been modified to make them anti-social, I photoed this lady and her bike, resting in one of the benches:

She either didn’t know she wasn’t supposed to be sitting there, or she knew but she didn’t care.

You can see how they wouldn’t want the tape to be, to echo the name of some popular entertainers of yesteryear, simply red. (a) Too much like smothering these things in red tape, and (b) what with the benches already being red, the red tape might be rather hard to see.

First photos with the FZ150

I can still remember the Great Leap Forward that the Panasonic Lumix FZ150 “bridge” camera was. For me if not for all of photoer-kind. For me, the best “bridge camera” I could have was my perfect camera. Tons of zoom, but no faffing about with different lenses to at once capture whatever scene presented itself to me, near or far.

I went rootling through the photo-archives looking for some early photos I photoed with this wondrous new contrivance, looking at the first photo-expeditions I embarked upon, along the River, to the Victoria Docks, or just to Westminster Abbey and Bridge, to photo my fellow photoers, to pick out some photos that brought back the shock of pleasurable surprise I had when I first got my hands on it.

But then I realised I was looking in the wrong place. What I needed to see were not merely some “early” photos, photoed days or even weeks after I got this super-camera. What I wanted to see were the absolute first photos I took with this camera, on January 26th 2012.

And the very first one of all was this:

That scene, of my kitchen window and surroundings as seen from my swivel chair around which most of my life revolves, if you get my meaning. (It’s the chair that does the actual revolving.) I am happy to report that the big grey Thing, bottom left, which was for making ice, has been replaced by a slightly bigger black box, which also makes ice, and also looks after food of many other sorts, including in particular ice cream. Otherwise, nothing has changed.

On each side of the window are CD shelves, and the next few photos I photoed were all close-ups of CDs, edge on:

That was when it hit me, and I believe I can still remember this glorious moment. This was the camera I had been waiting for, all my life. The key point was not just that these were successful photos of distant details. I can tell from the numbering of these photos in the archive that there were no failures. None. All of my first dozen or so photos with this new camera came out fine, even the one of my pop music department, which was where it still is, way off to the left and way up near the ceiling.

Only the following day did I photo anything beyond my front door.

The first outdoor photo I photoed with my new FZ150 was this, dated January 27th, i.e. the following day, just before it got dark:

That’s looking across Vincent Square at the building activity in and around Victoria Street, which has been pretty much continuous, one place or another, for the last decade. Mmmmmm, cranes.

Since then, I have upgraded to the Panasonic Lumix FZ200 and then to the FZ330. But they are both really just the FZ150 with frills added. If my current camera, the FZ330 were to be snatched away from me, and I was given another FZ150 and told that this would be my last camera, I’d not be that bothered. Were I told that I would have to go back to the crappy camera I had before the FZ150, that would be a disaster. Soon after acquiring this FZ150, I wrote about it at some length for Samizdata. This confirms what, up until re-reading that, I had merely remembered. The FZ150 really was a huge step forward.

Hurrah for capitalism. It really is ridiculous that the world’s schools are now cranking out a whole new generation of nitwits, an appallingly significant proportion of whom seem genuinely to want to put a stop to this glorious process.

Beatles statues in Liverpool

Sport returns to England, in the form of the Premier League, but with no spectators. Chelsea defeat Manchester City, and Liverpool are therefore the 2020 Champions.

Liverpool is very pleased about that:

The Liverpool Police, however, are not pleased.

I encountered the above photo here. I suppose that’s one way to learn about some statues for the first time.

These Beatles statues will surely not be vandalism by the BLMers, although if they decide to do this, I’m sure they’ll have no trouble cooking up an excuse. I mean, the Beatles surely did done some cultural appropriating of black music, aka performing it, that being what British sixties rock ‘n’ roll was all about. (The Rolling Stones definitely did.) And then, black Americans had a listen to the Beatles and culturally appropriated right back, often with results that delighted and amazed the Beatles. At the time, only racists objected to this to-ing-and fro-ing of music. Everyone else was very happy about it.

Howard Goodall on the world’s first recording star

I’ve been dipping into Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs, which is a book (based on a BBC TV show), whose subtitle is “The Story of Five Discoveries That Changed Musical History”. I have started at the end, with Bang Number Five, which was when Edison recorded sound. Here’s what Goodall says about the impact of the nascent sound recording industry on the life and career of Enrico Caruso (pp. 218-220):

Enrico Caruso was one of seven children born to a working-class Neapolitan family living in the Via San Giovanello. He received his first singing instruction as a choirboy in a local church, and as a teenager he made a few lire every night singing favourite Neapolitan songs for the cafe customers on the harbour waterfront. He began work in a factory, but eventually he was able to turn professional with his outstanding voice. After a shaky debut in Naples – he vowed never to perform there again – he was invited to sing at the holiest of all opera’s shrines, La Scala, Milan. It was here in March 1902 that Fred Gaisberg, the Gramophone Company’s European representative, heard Caruso performing in Franchetti’s popular opera Germania. Gaisberg offered the young unknown a deal to record ten arias for £100; Caruso duly accepted the offer, to the horror of Gaisberg’s London office, which tried to forbid the spending of ‘this exorbitant sum’. Gaisberg, however, backed his hunch, using his own money. That April, in Suite 301 in the Grand Hotel, Milan, the ten records were cut, beginning with ‘Studenti, Udite’ from Germania. Gaisberg went on to recoup his investment thousands of times over – and the records earned his company a fortune.

Most of the ten masters made on that occasion remain in perfect condition to this day. After their release, Caruso’s fame spread dramatically throughout Europe and America. He made two recordings, in 1902 and 1907, of the aria ‘Vesti la giubba’, from Leoncavallo’s opera I Pagliacci, which between them sold over a million copies. I Pagliacci was at this time a relatively new opera (it was given its first stage performance in 1892), based on a recent real-life criminal case. It’s hard to find a modern equivalent for this – a modern opera being as commercially successful as I Pagliacci. Even the hit records released from the shows of Andrew Lloyd Webber are based on stories from the past (Evita is probably his most contemporary non-fiction subject). As for the work of contemporary ‘classical’ composers, the thought of Harrison Birtwistle writing an opera which included a million-selling song is, let’s face it, laughable.

Caruso was to the early gramophone what Frank Sinatra or Maria Callas were to the LP, what Elvis Presley and the Beatles were to the 45-rpm ‘single’, and what Dire Straits and George Michael were to the compact disc: the ‘software’ of the music that drew listeners to the ‘hardware’ of the machines and materials. He was the first recording megastar, as much a household name in his day as Charlie Chaplin, prodigal son of another medium also in its infancy. Caruso’s voice had a timbre and range that perfectly suited the limitations of the medium, it could soar and tremble with such strength and depth that the background hiss and the indistinct accompaniment were all but forgotten. To many people, hearing him scale the summits of high opera was both miraculous and moving and this was not just their first experience of the true potential of the gramophone but also a gateway to the whole classical repertoire.

Edison’s humble contraption was to become a universal gift with the popularity of Caruso, catapulting classical music out of the small, exclusive world it had hitherto known.

The Gramophone and Victor Companies were buoyed by Caruso’s success. What’s more, all the other top singers now wanted a piece of the action, hurriedly dropping their objections to the quality of the medium once they realised that it could make them rich. The female equivalent of Caruso was Nellie Melba, an Australian soprano with a peach of a voice, and a good head for business, who held out until she got £1,000 – and her own label in passionate mauve.